After we ordered dinner, Mike grinned at me mischeviously.
"My Bangla tutor was talking about you today," he announced.
"Huh?" I asked, startled, " but I don't know him."
It was Thursday night and I was having dinner with the Principal and his wife.
"He knows you, though. For some weeks he's been talking about a 'girl on a cycle' and today he mentioned your striking hair color so we figured out it was you and were able to enlighten him as to your name."
That Mike and his Bangla teacher were able to identify my by my hair color is not at all odd. Truthfully, I stand out in more ways than one when riding my bike. Besides being blonde while all the people around me have dark hair, I am a female on a bike, which is unacceptable for Bengali women.
At stores, clubs, and church I frequently meet new people who introduce themselves by saying,
"Hi, do you ride a bike around Gulshan?"
On Wednesdays I cycle down to a bazaar near Baridhara to teach some teenagers and adults English. One of my students, 14 year old Shimoli, is openly envious of my bike.
"You are so lucky that you can ride a bike!" she exclaims, "I ask my parents if I can ride one and they say no, because it is not good for a woman to ride a bike! You are a bideshi (foriegner) so it is okay. But I cannot because people will think balo na (bad) things about me. So I have to walk such a long way and it takes too long."*
"That is not right," I agree with her.
Then Shimoli will shake her head and sigh.
Riding a bike in America is nothing, women do it all the time without thinking about it twice. Yet in Bangladesh it is just one small, trivial thing women cannot do. It represents a thousand other small and HUGE inequalities between men and women in this predominantly Muslim country.
Psalms 101 says God comes to bring "justice and equality." My prayer is that He will come to Bdesh.
*Shimoli does not in actuality speak this grammatically.